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CHAPTER 8 How Campaign Spending Affects Voter Awareness and Opinions of Initiatives As noted in the introductory chapters, one of the persistent critiques of direct democracy is that well-financed interests might use the process to purchase policy . "Big money" can fund petition drives and finance manipulative campaigns that are designed to fool voters into passing policies that are inconsistent with their interests (see, for example, Scott and Nathan 1970; Price 1975; Lowenstein 1982; Zisk 1987; Hadwiger 1992). But while the critique of "success through spending" may be quite common, it is less common to see the distinction made between successful opposition and successful advocacy. Money can affect outcomes in many ways. There is a distinction to be made between well-financed interests spending lavishly to defeat initiatives and wealthy groups spending heavily to pass initiatives. If the former is more typical, new proposals that threaten well-heeled interests--originating from the grass roots or otherwise-would have difficulty becoming law. Those that pass would have to survive vigorous opposition campaigns. Ifthe latter is more typical , the process would allow wealthy groups to circumvent the legislature and "purchase" policies that might be inconsistent with the majority's underlying preferences. In either case, spending would be expected to affect outcomes. Negative campaign spending would be associated with no voting on propositions , while spending on the yes side would be associated with yes voting. It is also possible that spending affects opinions in other, less direct ways. In this chapter we examine how spending might affect opinions and proposition outcomes, bearing in mind the distinction-and possible asymmetrybetween heavy spending on behalfof an initiative and heavy spending in opposition . We also explore the indirect effects of large-scale spending-especially spending in favor of propositions. Such spending, we suggest, may occasionally have the paradoxical effect of raising opposition to a given proposal. Our broad conclusion is that, contrary to the fears of some of direct democracy's critics, well-financed groups are able to affect outcomes, but their influence appears to be largely defensive. One major, although less direct, impact of spending may trigger the kinds of decision processes and cues that we have examined throughout our discussion. 147 148 Demanding Choices Research on Campaign Expenditure and Direct Democracy Thus far, we have largely sidestepped a direct look at how campaign spending affects opinions and voting in direct democracy. Along the way, however, we have indirectly established a number of points relevant to this issue. First, the analysis in chapter 3 (table 5) indicates that spending against a proposition is associated with greater negative voting. When estimating these same models with affirmative spending, we find no relationship between campaign expenditure and voting. These findings are consistent with much of the existing literature. Similar patterns have been identified by Lowenstein (1982) and Magleby (l994b). Banducci (n.d.) finds a stronger relationship between negative spending and the no vote, yet her two-stage model also finds a smaller yet significant relationship between yes voting and spending by the yes side. In contrast, Owens and Wade (1986) concluded that there is no substantive relationship between campaign spending and outcomes, and Hadwiger (1992) found yes spending to be influential in elections on local ballot measures. Thus, at least at the state level, spending against propositions appears to generate more negative voting than spending in favor generates support. Second, we have also noted the asymmetry in spending effects anecdotally : heavy spending in favor of several major initiatives failed to produce victory . As discussed in chapter 3, there are several examples of initiatives where tens of millions of dollars were spent by proponents, yet these measures were resoundingly defeated. Lowenstein (1982) has identified similar unsuccessful, well-financed yes campaigns in California: a 1972 effort by state employees to pass a law affecting state workers' salaries; a 1972 attempt by farmers to pass a law regulating farm labor relations; and a 1980 effort by landlords to pass a law restricting local rent controls. In each case, proponents spent heavily in real terms, outspending opponents 37 to 1,3.5 to 1, and 26 to 1, respectively. Just as the pro-tort-reform groups (noted in chapter 3) attempted to make their initiatives appear "proconsumer," these earlier yes campaigns also tried to make their initiatives sound beneficial to the groups organized in opposition. Despite the potential that might create for voter confusion, these initiatives were soundly defeated. Of these measures, the proposed regulations of farm workers received the widest support...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780472023349
Related ISBN
9780472087150
MARC Record
OCLC
665834046
Pages
216
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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